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Course development from a design perspective: the basic course design and development process.

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July 13, 2022 Jan Nedermeijer

The purpose of course design is described by Earl (1987) as to find the plan, structure and instruction strategy that leads to pre-specified learning goals. Beetham and Sharps (2007) described course design as an excellent learning process regarding teaching and learning activities and supporting materials. I combined both formulations: the design process aimed to arrive at an excellent learning process for your course with a learning environment to optimally support and stimulate such a learning process.

The design activities of the master course design and development process are briefly described below.

Design activity 1: Prepare and discuss the design brief (design assignment and DD process)

  1. Prepare a ‘design brief’ to explain your course design task;
  2. Prepare the pDD process you like to follow to finish the design task.

When you start redesigning your course, one of the first actions you need is to think about how you tackle your course design assignment. There is no standard course design and development process that you can follow step by step. Your course redesign and development process are determined by the difficulty and complexity of the design task and your experience as a teacher designer. A pDD process should be prepared if you work with a team of teachers or students.

Design activity 2: Collect, analyse and structure the information needed in your assignment

  1. Make a systematic description of the learning environment (Figure 6.6), including the diamond diagram (Figure 6.7);
  2. Draw the pedagogical concept of your course with the existing and new pedagogical measures;
  3. Formulate the quality criteria you and the management decided for the new course more precisely;
  4. Explain the other points that you consider necessary.

A design process is also a learning process. The teacher designer tries to grasp the relevant knowledge, conventions, assumptions, examples, best practices and theories suitable for the design task. You need a certain amount of expertise to find new ideas. Use sources with authority regarding scientific evidence and the experiences of trusted colleagues or educational experts.

Design activity 3: Design the route map for the course programme

  1. Elaborate on the learning trajectory by building on the structured information (diamond diagram, pedagogical concept, the learning environment and the blueprint).
  2. Use the possibilities offered by design activity 2 to arrive at appropriate concept ideas and design concepts;
  3. Select the structure, learning activities and materials you want to use in your course;
  4. Think of possible ideas for your route maps. Select three to five meaningful ideas for your route maps. Evaluate these ideas using your list of qualities. Select the final route map concept to elaborate on the blueprint.

Design activity 4: Develop the best route map in the blueprint format

  1. Introduce all topics of the course, following the selected structure, as described in the route map:
  2. The necessary learning activities for the students;
  3. The expected learning results;
  4. The teaching activities;
  5. The use of IT and practical exercises;
  6. Check the blueprint with the four implementation questions from paragraph 3.5. Prepare the IT.

Design activity 5: Deliver the redesigned blended or online learning course

  1. Develop the final lesson plan, teaching activities and materials for the course;
  2. Develop new assignments and materials;
  3. Prepare yourself for your work as a teacher.

Design activity 6: Evaluate, assess the quality of the design results and decide based on the consequences of the DD process

  1. After each design activity, evaluate whether you are still on the right track with your course design;
  2. Do you still meet your selected quality criteria?
  3. Assess whether the design and development results fit the official institutes’ requirements for the learning environment, like study hours, classrooms, pedagogical concepts and test format.
  4. Decide what adjustments and additional design activities are needed;
  5. Prepare the evaluation activities and materials for minor try-outs for new teaching or learning activities;
  6. Prepare an evaluation of the implementation of your newly redesigned course.

The order in which you conduct the design activities is not fixed. Sometimes, you begin by collecting additional information. Sometimes, you already have so many ideas that you start devising a new course programme. When you are ready, you need to start collecting additional information. You should check whether the intermediate products in the pDD process are well connected and fit logically with your design task and the final course design.

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